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Former SVES principal passes away

DR. JUANITA “Janet” C. Villagomez, a long-time educator and former principal of San Vicente Elementary School, passed away on Oct. 14. She was 70.

Janet C. Villagomez

 “Mom had a stroke in September,” her son Jay Villagomez said in an email interview with Variety. “She was determined to get better and underwent physical therapy. She was progressing very well and was gaining greater mobility. But she had diabetes and complications, therefore, needed a blood transfusion. She developed septicemia, which led to her death.”

The former SVES principal completed her doctorate in education-curriculum studies in 2015 in the Philippines.

She taught in the graduate school program of Lyceum of the Philippines in Laguna for three years. It was her last teaching stint.

She started her career in education as a teacher at St. Therese’s College in Manila in 1969, a year after she obtained a bachelor’s degree majoring in English from the College of the Holy Spirit where she graduated cum laude.

She became a high school teacher and science department head at Kwikila High School in Papua New Guinea from 1979 to 1982.

From 1984 to 1986, she was a teacher of English as Second Language or ESL for Vietnamese refugees at the Morong Refugee Camp in Bataan, the Philippines.

“She always wanted to help everybody, of any nationality,” Jay Villagomez said of his mother.

In 1986, Dr. Villagomez taught high school at Marianas Baptist Academy on Saipan for a year.

From 1988 to 2002, she served on Northern Marianas College’s adjunct faculty.

In August 1987, she became a classroom teacher at San Vicente Elementary School.

From 1996 to 2000, Villagomez was SVES vice principal and its principal from 2000 to 2005.

She served as consultant-teacher mentor from 2006 to 2007 before returning to the Philippines.

“She always had a special place in her heart for Filipinos, especially contract workers on Saipan who attended her many helpful seminars,” Jay Villagomez said. “She went back to the Philippines because she said that her expertise in curriculum and educational leadership would help Filipino teachers who then could help many students.”

He said her wake was well-attended. “Her influence was very palpable during her wake in Canlubang, Laguna [a province south of Manila]. I flew there from New England and met with what seemed like 100 former and current students from 45 years ago to her current Lyceum grad students. All told me different stories about how Mom influenced their lives. But all were in tears to lose a very caring and remarkable individual and mentor.”

Former Education Commissioner Dr. Rita A. Sablan said her friendship with Villagomez started in the 1980s when they were both teachers. “As we moved up through the ranks, our friendship and professional relationship became stronger.”

Sablan said Villagomez was a very sharp and dedicated educator. “She strived for excellence. She often described herself as a perfectionist and this is because she expected the best from herself, her students, her teachers and parents.”

Sablan added, “Her most valuable contribution is her insistence on academic excellence for every single child. She helped transform how we deliver services so that parents would also be involved emotionally, spiritually and mentally in their children’s education.”